Criminal gangs still targeting rural areas

Our columnist is enjoying The Young Offenders, but not the activities of the real-life criminal fraternity. He is enjoying the return of the T-bone steak. Meanwhile, Frank’s uplifted by the progress of a well-known team in Manchester…and even more enthusiastic about the youth policy of Creggs GAA Club…

It’s Monday morning as I write, and out here in Creggs our local Neighbourhood Watch scheme has alerted us to the fact that there is a vehicle (or its occupant/s) acting suspiciously in the area. In view of the upsurge in the theft of dogs, along with the continuing theft of tools, machinery, trailers and other farmyard items, sadly it is vitally important that such a service exists in rural Ireland.

Over the weekend I met a friend who told me that in the recent past he has been robbed of a generator, a consaw (whatever that is), an angle grinder, and other miscellaneous tools from his garage, a property which is relatively secluded and well hidden. Despite that, it was not safe from the ‘eagle eyes’ of our thieving predators, so I suppose the message is (even during this pandemic) to be wary of unusual activities in your area, and keep everything that can be moved under lock and key.

As for me, I’m keeping an eye out, even as I’m writing this, although in truth I haven’t much that would be any good to a self-respecting robber. However, it is a sad reflection on the deterioration of our society that our little local communities are constantly being targeted by criminal gangs. I wondered last Friday, on the 43rd anniversary of my father’s passing, what he would have thought of our present-day criminality, and would he believe that the rural practice of never locking the front door is now a complete no-no.

The whole approach nowadays seems to be about exploiting everything to one’s own advantage, regardless of the cost (in every way) to the people who suffer. On today’s papers the very fact that so many of our own citizens illegally took advantage of the Covid payments shows that we are now a very ‘Mé Féin’ society. More than 11,000 false claims have been discovered, saving our hard-pressed finances more than €45 million, but there can be no doubt that those discoveries are but a tip of the iceberg, and there are undoubtedly many more recipients of the Covid payments who shouldn’t be getting it at all.

I suppose because it’s coming from the State it doesn’t seem to be wrong, because, as they say, ‘no-one is getting hurt’. Still, just like the gangs who are going around our areas taking stuff that doesn’t belong to them, the social welfare scammers are every bit as guilty.

 

GAA games can take more than 200 people!

Last Saturday evening, along with 199 other hardy souls, I headed to the football pitch in Oran for the first round of the Intermediate Football Championship between our own local lads, Creggs, and our old foes, Kilbride.

It was my first experience of the 200-people rule at outdoor gatherings. In my opinion there is no need to keep the numbers so low. In fairness, everything was properly organised by (I presume) the Oran club and the County Board, and the grounds were a credit to the host club. It was all-ticket entry. We were checked in on arrival, but there is no doubt that around the full area of a football ground – with proper social distancing – loads more supporters could be accommodated.

I parked myself on the side of the pitch about 50 yards from one of the goals, and all the way from there round behind the goal to my left there were only five other people, so at least half the pitch-side had no spectators at all.

The good news from our point of view is that, after a slow start, we went on to win the game. The fact that we had a couple of 18-year-old lads, Eoin Browne and Thomas Crean, play so well is a hopeful sign for the future. So it’s full steam ahead for next Saturday when we take on St. Aidan’s in Creggs and hopefully keep up our winning ways.

Sticking with sport, and it is no secret that I have been a long-time supporter of Man. Utd., and so on Sunday afternoon at 4 pm I parked myself in front of the telly to watch as they attempted to secure a Champions League place by either drawing or winning at Leicester City. History will show that they succeeded in their mission,  luckily winning by two goals to nil.

I have to admit that it was a great result for us, but the truth is that there was a lot more intensity, passion and effort shown by both teams in Oran on the previous evening than was shown by the multimillionaires of United, who played as if they were out for a Sunday stroll. They looked tired – mentally and physically – which is understandable after their recent exertions since the pandemic lockdown, and it would be churlish of me not to acknowledge their fantastic finish to the season.

To finish third, after being – in racing terms – left at the post, is a fantastic achievement, and they played some very good football on the way. Please God things will be back to normal next season and grounds will reopen to fans – and if my friend, Martin Logan, over there in Manchester is reading this, he might still figure a way to get me to Old Trafford.

 

Loving The Young Offenders…

Last week on TV we had the eagerly-awaited return of The Young Offenders. While it might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I have to say I enjoy it. You would be hard set to find better characters anywhere than the two main lads, Conor and Jock. Conor, played by Alex Murphy, is such an idiot that he is almost unbelievable. Jock is a good deal cuter, but still an ass (and perfectly played by Chris Walley).

However, the star of the show for me is the ‘outrageously mad’ Billy Murphy, played by Shane Casey. He must be one of the zaniest characters ever dreamt up by any scriptwriter. In previous series he was more a bit part player. This time around I really hope they give him more screen time. He is just such a total ‘loose cannon’. There can’t be another one like him anywhere in the world of drama (I think that’s what it is).

While for some reason it doesn’t seem to be as fashionable as the likes of Derry Girls, I love The Young Offenders, and can’t wait to see how mad Billy can become. PJ Gallagher is another actor who plays his part well, so all told it’s good to have it back and I look forward to seeing how it all works out in the rest of the series.

 

For peat’s sake

There can be no doubt that one of the beneficiaries of the global pandemic has been the gardening sector. For the last five months, loads of people, myself included, who had never previously shown much aptitude for or interest in gardening suddenly found themselves spending loads of time in the garden, out in the fresh air and appreciating the beauty and wonder of the many different types of plants and flowers.

Now, one of the most important items for any garden is moss peat, and while you can buy bags of moss peat/compost in any garden centre or even the odd supermarket, a fellow I know was asking where you could get a trailer-load of it, and he wondered if Bord na Mona – who apparently have mountains of it – would make it available to the public.

It seems they are turning to green energy, and won’t be using peat products for the generation of power any more, so he thought – as a goodwill gesture – they could sell it off at a reduced price to would-be gardeners, who would make good use of it. If he is right, and it’s being stockpiled in huge heaps on our decreasing number of active bogs, then it would make great sense to let it go, reduce their surplus stock, get a few bob in, and help the gardeners of the country as they try to brighten up their lives. It’s one of those win-win situations, with no seeming downsides.

 

And finally…

Finally for this week, back in the day one of my great gastronomic delights was a good lump of T-bone steak. Even though it would only be an occasional treat, it was hard to beat…well done, with a load of mushrooms and onions, and a few chips. It was simply delicious, definitely my favourite meal of all. Then, as a result of the foot and mouth scare back in the early part of this century, Europe decided that the T-bone could no longer be sold, and sadly it disappeared from our lives.

Now I have no idea how long it is since it made its comeback, but recently I have seen it being advertised by different retailers and butchers, and yesterday evening I had my first big T-bone for many a year. I can report that it has lost none of its flavour or taste. It wasn’t cheap, but after so long it was just wonderful – and is definitely back on my shopping list. Please God Europe doesn’t decide to ban it again.